A Road, according to the Dictionary, has been described as a wide way leading from one place to another on a prepared surface.
When it comes to Pune roads the other meaning of the word applies – a series of events or a course of action which will lead to a particular outcome. In this case, it could probably be an early date with the Maker.
In reality, Pune roads may or may not lead from one place to another. Prepared surface? No way.
So what’s it with Pune roads? Firstly, the so-called tarred surface should only be referred to loosely as roads, essentially not wide.
There are potholes, manholes, cracks, mounds, sunken drains, speed breakers or back breakers and excreta of unknown animals and sometimes of the two-legged variety.
That established, navigation on this surface has become a pure art form. You deal with the surface and importantly you deal with drivers – Pune style.
There are many categories when it comes to drivers. Some play safe, some selfish, some are speed kings, some turn breaking traffic signals into a fine art, others horn like no tomorrow even at red lights.
Then there are those who weave through the traffic like a butterfly, make cuts and come so close that you can smell their sweat.
A new breed has been added recently. The farmer kings, often fondly alluded to fondly as the ‘gunta mantris” have added a whole new dimension to driving with their huge SUVs. They have introduced the American way to motoring – keep on the extreme right side of the road at all times regardless of the traffic.
“If you can drive in Pune, you can drive anywhere in the world,” says businessman Sanjay Joshi.
“Day in and day out, it’s an adventure out of which you are not sure of coming out alive. I always say a little prayer before I depart and when I return – hopefully safe and sound.
“No road discipline, no police. It’s a free-for-all from which you must emerge winner daily,” he says.
Ilyas Khan, 60, an expert driver who runs a taxi service, has a golden advice to all drivers.
“If you want to drive in Pune, follow this simple philosophy – what is behind you should not bother you.
“Keep to your path, drive correctly and let the others be damned,” he adds.
Aditya Tiwari, 35, a technie who works in Hinjewadi and hails from UP, is happy that he gets transport to work.
“I hate driving on Pune’s roads. I have a motorbike but it mostly rots in the garage.”
“You need patience and plenty of it,” says V. Shridhar, who rides a two-wheeler daily to work.
“I do 15km each way and I can tell you that it is sheer torture. Knowing what the standard of public transport is in this city, I am forced to do this ordeal six days a week,” he adds.
“Everybody is selfish on the road. You too have to be if you want to come out of it alive.
“They all want to be upfront, heavy traffic or not. Every little opening is a way forward. This leads to jams everywhere. Sometimes they crowd up on the opposite side and the traffic comes to a standstill.
“Strangely, I never find any cops at such times. They probably have other pressing matters to attend to,” he adds.
Mukesh Advani, 40, says his daily dose of torture on the roads has increased his vocabulary.
“I was told not to curse as a child. But now I do this exercise religiously daily. On a minimum, it could be 25 to 30 words which would make a sailor blush. It is letting go of frustrations.
“And I am coining new ones by combining a few choice ones,” he said.
Pranay Sopte, 50, who lives in the Gulf, thanks Pune for getting a licence quickly in Dubai.
“Dubai driving tests are stringent. Sometimes they fail you several times.
“I got it first shot, though. My daily driving in Pune made me an expert.
“I could manoeuvre with expertise, get out of tricky situations with ease and apply brakes with vigour,” he said.
“However, I think there many Pune drivers who behave as if they have a licence to kill.
“So, God be with you every time you hit the road,” says Sopte.